Kerlin BBQ (1700 E. Cesar Chavez St.) is home to some of the best barbecue in the city (it ranked 7th on our list in 2014), and a few years ago they pulled a super Texas move by adding their brisket to kolaches. For the first few years they only sold the kolaches on weekends, but now you can get kolaches every day that the East Austin trailer is open. Kolaches are sold starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday-Sunday, with barbecue sold starting at 11 a.m. In addition to the brisket and cheddar versions, there are also jalapeno-cheddar and smoked sausage kolaches and pork shoulder with Monterrey Jack cheese.
Chef Sterling Ridings went home to find the inspiration for the menu at the seafood-driven Guild. Literally. And figuratively.
After a brief period working out ideas in a temporary kitchen, the head chef and partner at the new restaurant from the Chameleon Group (Swift’s Attic, Wu Chow), retreated to the kitchen at his house, testing out recipes on his family and getting in touch with the cooking that first inspired him.
Ridings worked for Hai Hospitality for more than a half-dozen years, ascending from unpaid stage at Uchi to executive chef at Uchiko. Around the time he decided to leave Tyson Cole’s demi empire and forge a new path, he was introduced to the Chameleon Group partners, who had in mind a restaurant with oyster and raw bar. Ridings had an obviously impressive history working with sushi, but he took the opportunity to consider how he wanted the next iteration of his voice to sound.
The sanctuary of his home kitchen meant less cooking sous vide, and more pan-roasting and oven-roasting. He put aside the modernism that had come to define the most recent years of his career and returned to the roots he planted learning to cook from 2007 to 2009 at Parkside under Shawn Cirkiel.
“We’re able to go back to a lot of more fundamentals of cooking, which I think is extremely important,” Ridings said. “It’s been pretty cool to go back to cooking like I did at Parkside.”
Guild’s menu will be seafood-centric (the sea accounting for about 60 percent of the menu and a raw bar). Ridings wants to use American seafood predominantly, sourcing from all the coasts, including as much Gulf seafood as possible.
Ridings loves fish for the protein’s versatility, but he always has been most interested in cooking with vegetables, utilizing ingredients that once seemed exotic but have become part of the culinary lexicon for chefs of his generation. What once might have carried the label of fusion can now be seen as a chef’s organic perspective.
Ridings has long pulled from the global palette to realize his vision, so diners can expect anything from raw oysters with green Szechuan peppercorn mignonette to hanger steak marinated with ginger, jalapeño, rosemary and dark beer or toasted coriander tofu.
“We are in a space right now where people are willing to go on this trip with us and trust us,” Ridings said.
The lessons Ridings has taken from his mentor Cirkiel and Cole and Paul Qui will guide his philosophy. While he learned the importance of the basics from Cirkiel, from Cole Ridings gleaned the way to develop brightness and balance and to refine presentation.
Ridings hopes to take Cole’s “perfect bite” philosophy, which informs all that Hai does, and apply it to larger dishes. This might translate to diners experiencing a variety of perfect bites that build throughout a dish such as brioche-crusted halibut on a plate with roasted broccoli and deviled trumpet mushrooms.
After constructing his menu and getting back to his roots in his home kitchen, Ridings has no interest in abdicating his role in the kitchen.
“We’re in this really strange space, culturally and culinarily … you spend all this time trying to perfect this craft of cooking and then once you reach a certain space, you stop and expedite food and tell people what they’re doing wrong instead of cooking your food and coaching people in real time during the process,” Ridings said.
He wants to do away with that notion.
“I don’t tell people, ‘I’m a chef.’ I tell them, ‘I’m a cook.’”
(Guild is at 3800 N. Lamar Blvd. #170. The restaurant offers valet parking on 39th Street, as well as self-parking in the garage on Medical Parkway. Guild will be open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.)
Freedmen’s owner Cuatro Kowalski’s interest in smoked meats has taken him out to the Hill Country. The Austinite recently opened Texas 46 BBQ at 2 Sun Valley Drive in Spring Branch, about 12 miles from Canyon Lake.
The kitchen is run by chef/pitmaster Austin Fry, who menu includes traditional post-oak smoked barbecue brisket, beef and pork ribs and housemade sausage, along with dishes like a chicken-fried steak burger and a smoked salmon burger.
Fry, whose resume includes serving as executive chef and general manager at La Condesa in 2009, spent much of the past eight years living in Asia, where he worked as executive chef at Blue Smoke in Hong Kong, among others.
The original bar and burger joint was owned for about 30 years by Gary Stebbins, who passed away last year. Kowalski purchased the restaurant and bar last spring. The space maintains much of the roadhouse aesthetic of its previous incarnation and includes a covered front patio and lawn with picnic tables and washer pits. Texas 46 has a full bar and features 20 draft beers.
“We are not trying to reinvent the barbecue restaurant,” said Kowalski. “We just want to do barbecue well—and create a meeting place for the neighboring communities to gather, whether for a beer, a meal, or a celebration.”
Texas 46 BBQ is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
New Waterloo, one of Austin’s more prolific hospitality groups, announced today that it will open Italian restaurant Il Brutto on March 12. The restaurant is located at 1617 E. Sixth St. in the mixed-use Arnold building, around the corner from New Waterloo’s new Italian deli, La Matta.
The pan-Italian restaurant, which will initially serve dinner before expanding to lunch and weekend brunch in April, is helmed by executive chef and Italian-raised Erind Halilaj, a veteran of Obicà Mozzarella Bar and Hotel Marriott Milano, among others.
The menu will include house-made pastas (ravioli, pappardelle, lasagna), pizzas baked in a Neapolitan wood-burning oven and entrees such as squid ink tagliolini with mussels and clams, beef tenderloin slow-cooked in Nebbiolo, and baby octopus with olives and capers. See the full menu here.
“Il Brutto’s menus represent the cuisine of Italy as a whole, from Mediterranean flavors of the south to central lamb dishes and beef tenderloin from the north,” Halilaj said. “Our dishes are respectful to tradition, and that starts with fresh ingredients and classic techniques.”
New Waterloo’s corporate executive pastry chef, former James Beard award semifinalist Amanda Rockman, will oversee a pastry program that includes Italian classics like tiramisu, cannoli and panna cotta.
Il Brutto, its name translating to “the ugly one,” a nod to Italian director Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Western “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” also features a separate bar and lounge, a private dining room and a live oak tree-shaded patio for dining al fresco. The restaurant is located on the ground floor of the Arnold, a mixed-use building that is home to residents and businesses such as C3 Presents, Condé Nast, and Front Gate Tickets. Il Brutto will initially be open 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and 5 to 11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
New Waterloo opened La Matta and French restaurant Le Politique last year and operates Sway, La Condesa, Hotel Ella and the South Congress Hotel.
The owners of Kemuri Tatsu-Ya and Ramen Tatsu-Ya have signed a lease for the former Teriyaki Madness space at 7301 Burnet Road, next to Tacodeli.
Chefs Takuya Matsumoto and Tatsu Aikawa say they are not ready to announce their specific plans for the space. The two chefs opened the first Ramen Tatsu-Ya in 2012, and their izakaya-smoke, Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, recently earned a semifinalist nod for best new restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation and was named one of the 10 best new restaurants in the state by Texas Monthy.
Better Half, the all-day Southern-influenced restaurant from the group behind the popular beer/coffee bar Brew & Brew in East Austin, will officially open to the public Tuesday morning at 406 Walsh St. (at the corner of Fifth and Walsh streets).
The restaurant’s offerings will start at 7 each morning, with quick items like a tasso ham and jalapeño honey butter biscuit ($6) and granola bowl ($9), expanding to a full breakfast and lunch menu that runs from 9 a.m to 3 p.m. That menu features dishes like a fried chicken biscuit ($7), greens and grains bowl with smoky mushrooms in a tamari broth ($11), Gulf redfish torta ($15), a green salad with carrots, beets and avocados, a cheeseburger made with 44 Farms beef ($9) and more. And, if you hit the pop-up held at Brew & Brew, you will remember the pastrami sandwich, which will be a Wednesday special.
The menu from chef Rich Reimbolt, formerly of Josephine House, lengthens in the evening to include a petite chicken fried steak ($12), savory churros with queso ($8), a ham flight with deviled egg spread ($14) and more. Reimbolt is joined in the kitchen by fellow McGuire Moorman Hospitality alumnus Jenn Tucker, who oversees a pastry program that includes the biscuits, beignets and all of the bread, which will be made in-house, and a dessert menu featuring buttermilk pie and s’mores cake. The kitchen will close at 10 p.m., but owners say they will be making fresh batches of biscuits at 9:30 p.m each night for late-night eats. See full opening menu below.
Given the owners’ history, you know you can expect a strong selection of brews and brews, as well as cocktails. Coffee is from Heart Roasters and Flat Track; there are four cocktails and six beers on tap, as well as stirred and frozen cocktail selections.
The modernist space from Chioco Design and Lillianne Steckel Design is open until midnight Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and until 2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday. Better Half closes at 3 p.m. Mondays.
One of the more active restaurant groups of the past decade in Austin has decided to amicably split.
ELM Restaurant Group co-founder Bob Gillett has left the group to focus all of his attention on bakery, bar and restaurant Easy Tiger, the second concept from ELM, which opened on East Sixth Street in 2012.
Gillett is joined in leading Easy Tiger into the future, which includes a forthcoming location at the Linc, with partner and “head dough puncher” David Norman, one of Austin’s most accomplished and revered bakers, who will oversee bakery operations and kitchen offerings. Easy Tiger “has received additional capital from a group of local investors that will help immediately ramp up work on the eagerly anticipated Linc shop, which features a vastly expanded baking facility,” according to a rep.
Folks keeping on the Linc, have undoubtedly notices that the store originally slated to open in 2015, has been very slow in progressing. The impediments have come from the variety of ELM projects, but that pace of development should now increase.
“The Linc slowed down because ELM had so many great opportunities (Cookbook, Fareground, etc.) come up at the same time that we didn’t want to turn down,” a representative for ELM said. “We had to prioritize projects based on quite a few factors (timelines, partners, resources, etc). The pace will definitely pick up again with the new focus and money.”
The other three founding ELM partners – chef Andrew Curren, co-founder Scott Hentschel and finance director Vince Ashwill – will continue to manage 24 Diner, Italic, Irene’s and Fareground (where Easy Tiger will remain in operation), as well as work toward opening Cookbook at the Austin Central Library this spring and 24 Diner at Domain Northside.
In addition to those changes, ELM also recently said goodbye to Mark Sayre, who led the group after two-plus years to be the new service director at McGuire Moorman Hospitality.
*This post has been updated to include information on the Linc and Fareground.